Popular condiments – give your life flavor a healthier way

Popular condiments – give your life flavor a healthier way

When you´re trying to eat healthily, you may not be such an expert in nutrition in order to prepare tasty treats for yourself. Naturally, eating unsalted raw or cooked vegetables doesn´t always seem to be the most delicious way to eat, and so eventually, you may end up pigging out on a sandwich with tons of mayo and ketchup on it. But it doesn´t always have to be like this. There ARE condiments you can use for your pastry, cooking, or as a dip for a Halloween party, and they are healthy. Read on and see what nasty diseases avoiding the salty fatty artificial stuff you can prevent, and how to make the right yet tasty decision.

Mayonnaise / Tartar sauce

Mayonnaise is one of the most popular still most dreaded of the condiments. Healthy eaters and dieters know too well for they have stepped aside and never looked back… The threat is real and we need to address it: Mayonnaise, as well as Tartar sauce are both made of oil and egg yolks as a base and then vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt can be added. The base though is enough to make it a deadly mixture that could potentially harm your body from inside and out. Raw eggs are the most likely from all the foodstuffs to contain bacteria of salmonella. If you give such infected mayonnaise to your child or an elderly, it might exhaust their bodies to a level where they can no longer fight the bacteria and give in. Of course this is an extreme scenario but it is not rare at all. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 1 million of people get infected annually, and based on their report from 2011, 400 of them die each year. That´s not the only way mayo could harm your body though, the oil used in the base is usually soybean (the unhealthiest oil there is) or some other “vegetable” oil which is high in calories and saturated fat, the one that leads to coronary heart disease, clogged arteries, and strokes. One tablespoon contains 90 kcal, 9g of fat, 4 of which are saturated, and 80mg of sodium - but whom are we kidding with the 1 tablespoon serving?


Olive oil or tahini. Extra virgin olive oil has the same amounts of calories and fats but almost all of them are unsaturated and there is no sodium in it. Thanks to its oleocanthal and omega-3s content it is protecting your heart and boosting immune system. Its delicious taste and aroma gives any meal a characteristic flavor which everybody must just love. Tahini, on the other hand, is a paste / spread made of sesame and possibly nothing else, full of nutrients and healthy fats and it´s easy to use as a substitute for butter or mayonnaise in salads, on sandwiches, or even as a side dish.


One tablespoon serving of ketchup has only 15 calories which sounds much better than mayonnaise, but be careful! It´s all sugars! Plus, there is around 190mg of sodium which is almost 10% of your daily recommended allowance. The main problem with ketchup though is the way it´s prepared. If you cook it at home, it might be totally OK but it´s not very likely to happen. IT´s more like this: you´ll go to the nearest store because you need something of a strong flavor for your baked potatoes, pasta with eggs, steak, or inside a toast. Believe me, I´ve seen people eating ketchup with literally everything – as a dip for crackers, mixed with grated cheese as a snack, or as a marinade for salted peanuts to name a few. Naturally, if you´re one of those who just cannot get enough of it, you may be significantly exceeding the 1 tablespoon serving a day. In such case, your sodium intake will skyrocket up, as well as carbohydrates which will make you feel hungry and dissatisfied for the rest of the day. The result – high blood pressure leading to cardio-vascular disease and a waistline not conforming to the good old 24-inch rule of thinness. In addition to this, if you´re buying ketchup from any large international food company, it is probably packed with artificial flavorings and additives that make no real sense but to bring them profits.


Fresh tomatoes or an Italian tomato sauce. Fresh tomatoes are an obvious number 1 in this case. They have a very distinctive flavor, popular basically everywhere in the world and they go well with so many meals. Plus, they contain lycopene, an antioxidant keeping a doctor away and lots of vitamin C boosting your immune system. When heated, they lose some of its content of vitamins but on the other hand, are then less allergenic. Anyway, who would exchange Italian basil-olive-tomato sauce for ketchup??


Mustard is one of those condiments most commonly used for marinating meat, however, here in Slovakia we are pretty generous with our portions and creative about the ways we use it. When there´s a reason to celebrate, it is almost a tradition to make sandwiches with lots of stuff on them, such as hard-boiled egg, several kinds of ham, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, and underneath all of it, lots of mustard. Basically, mustard can be very healthy, again, depending on its preparation. Mustard seeds contain antioxidants preventing us from harm by external influences and diseases, have anti-inflammatory properties, and also high amounts of selenium which is good for your hair and nails. When you combine these seeds only with water, salt, and spices, you´ll create a healthy addition to your lunch baguette or a great steak marinade. The trouble begins when the food-processing companies start to mix it up with vinegar, isoglucose syrup, and increase the salt content. It is quite ridiculous when you see some kind of sugar and salt together on almost every label. Mustard is supposed to be salty and a little salt won´t harm you, but if you try to highlight the final created flavor with sugar, you must put more salt back in to balance it. Quite a pity for something starting as a healthy ingredient…


Pesto! Another Italian condiment made it to the top, and why? Because of its ingredients and the perfect intensive flavor. Pesto´s base ingredients are olive oil (extra virgin, if possible), basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. As we already know very well, extra virgin olive oil is a health miracle in almost any aspect – it is anti-inflammatory, contains high amounts of omega-3s, and basically heals our body before it even gets sick. Basil is one of those green super foods having a lot of folate and other Bs besides its deliciousness. Garlic is also used as a natural treatment for common cold or flu, and with the protein in pine nuts and parmesan cheese, the absolute natural miraculous medication is being created.

Now, what about salt?

Nobody probably thinks about salt when we talk about condiments. Salt is an everyday item, we put it in water to cook pasta or vegetables and don´t really think about it. After the last decade´s educative reports about the salt´s connection to heart disease, many people basically stopped using it otherwise than for this one purpose. One problem is we cannot really control our intake if we buy packaged food in any form, and that´s why we need to reduce the amount we´re using for cooking at home. Even if you try, there is salt in almost every recipe, but there is a way you can fool it. When cooking, add salt at the very end, when everything is almost cooked through. That way, only a very small amount of sodium will get absorbed into the food but the flavor will be just as strong. In the end though, when you think about the famous Czech fairytale “Byl jednou jeden kráľ,” you´ll realize you don´t need to be afraid of salt and you´re better off not trying to substitute it. Remember, it is not possible anyway and it´s so precious!

by Katarína Vicová

Breene, S. (2013). 17 healthier condiments and sauces to keep in your pantry. Retreived from: http://greatist.com/health/healthy-condiments-pantry-staples
Clark, M. (2015). Salmonella. Retrieved from: http://www.foodborneillness.com/salmonella_food_poisoning/
The Straight Beef (2015). [picture]. Retrieved from: http://thestraightbeef.com/
Weingarten, H. (2013). Which is healthier? Ketchup or mayo? Retrieved from: http://blog.fooducate.com/2013/11/21/which-is-heathier-ketchup-or-mayo/